Apparently, the previous organisers had turned to a local race organiser (Trail Outlaws) for some help to ensure the future viability of this race. I decided at an early stage to support it. It was to form part of the RAF Centenary celebrations on 2018 and let’s face it, you don’t get the chance, every day, to run around a historic base that was part of the UK’s missile project during the cold war.
I was also lured by the description of, “stunning views along its length, winding its way around and through Spadeadam Forest with views over to the Lake District and Sycamore Gap on Hadrians Wall. With numerous RAF practise targets and tanks along the route..”. I figured the RAF wouldn’t be doing much practicing on the day!
I set off to drive the ~1.5hr journey, stopping off at a national chain of coffee purveyors on the outskirts of Hexham for a latte and luxury fruit toast – an army marches on its stomach (oops – wrong service!)
Leaving the A69, I headed toward the base along minor roads and then encountered a tail-back – cars and passengers dealing with the security measures to access the base. Fortunately, this gave me time to stretch my legs, and don my offending compression socks (I’m amazed they let me in!).
Once through the gate and parked up, I collected my number (if only every race organiser insisted on seeing a form of photo ID, we’d avoid Bill running as Ben and so-on). I then decided a warm up was in order and being a bit of a radio geek, and noting the additional hazard at one point of non-ionising radiation above 2 metres, I decided to keep my head down!
There was a bit of delay to proceedings with many a pre-race photo opportunity but before long we were lining up. Now having run an Ultramarathon a fortnight ago, and with another a week away, I decided my plan was to throttle back a little and enjoy the sights. Then we were off, up the hill past the parked cars, and up, up, up – in fact the first few miles were definitely ascent territory. Once off the tarmac, we were on lumpy gravel paths for the majority of the remainder, which were ok on the uphill (plenty of that) and on the downhill corners, enough scree to catch you out.
I remember being pleased with myself and thinking that 53 minutes for the first 10km was half sensible and then there was another series of leg-pulling uphills.
The wind was truly formidable – trees were uprooted and it was hard to run straight at times – I remember thinking that the wind would excite a RAF pilot. The highest point was around 13km and I heard one runner say something about it all being downhill from that point. Now I’ve been to a fair few of these events, and whereas there were some fast downhill stretches there were many uphill sections, including one hill near the end which caught a few folk out.
I was hitting a ~1:55 half marathon by distance, again half sensible but from my earlier warm-up, I knew I was about a mile from the finish – a typical trail race then in terms of value for distance. I decided to drop a gear on the last mile and 7 min/mile pace to the finish, feeling the value of my Hoka Speedgoat 2 cushioning.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, managed to stop for a few obligatory selfies, and actually managed to appear in the race photos looking remarkably presentable for once. In summary, not an easy route, but a great experience, with amazing views and I’d do it again in a flash.
Congratulations to Robert Allfree who was 1st Strider home and all the other Striders!
Many thanks to RAF Spadeadam for their hospitality, Hippie Nixon Photography for the photographic memories and Trail Outlaws for a great event, and a rather cool medal!
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